The Return on Investment (ROI) for content marketing is measured with Key Performance Indicators (KPI) such as brand awareness, website traffic, lead generation and financial performance. In this analysis, we will focus on generating targeted website traffic growth and lead generation – top of the funnel (TOFU). The purpose of this ROI analysis is to show how a curation and content marketing strategy can grow your organic web site traffic (organic = non-paid or sponsored traffic only).
The chart to the top-right shows a growth of 464% achieved in targeted website traffic in just 4 months. This fast growth is achieved using content curation to accelerate traditional content marketing traffic generating tactics. The table below shows other important growth metrics.
4 Month Growth: June through September 2012
Latest Month-Over-Month Growth: August to Sept. 2012
* Note: Social media marketing started from almost nothing in this case analysis, so there is no meaning in the 15,340% growth the numbers give.
Traffic growth is still accelerating as you can see with the 109% growth in the latest month. The ultimate reasons for this fast growth are the effective use of social media and a growing library of content to share on social channels. It is important to note that the organic search is growing respectably, but it is still not as fast as traffic can be driven by using curation, sharing and other content marketing tactics during the early stage of a long-term content marketing campaign. This will probably change after about 12 to 18 months of continuous effort as organic search will continue to grow and socially driven traffic’s growth rate will slow down. This is important because search driven traffic (with well-targeted keywords) typically generates better quality traffic that converts more often than social media traffic (in general, experience shows that a social niche can work just as well or better). In addition search traffic does not stop as level of effort decreases; it keeps on driving traffic. In contrast social media traffic tends to be proportional to level of effort.
Continue reading to see the details of the strategy used.
The Curation and Content Marketing Strategy Used
The case study for this ROI analysis begins with a company and website that is somewhat typical — in that their 3-year-old site was updated sporadically and blog posts added less than once per month. No online advertising was done during the four-month period of this analysis. Traditional networking and other outbound marketing methods were solely used for lead generation. This gave us a good clean starting point to initiate and ramp-up a B2B content marketing program and measure the results. The site was re-launched with a new cleaner design and the blog cleaned up and revamped, with many of the blog posts removed … a clean start.
As with any well designed and executed content marketing strategy, the objective is to drive targeted traffic to the company website – where the goal is to get conversion of some sort, filling out a form say. For a detailed explanation of the curation strategies outlined below please read our eBook, “Curation For B2B Content Marketing.”
The overall strategy is curation lead with original blog content in the mix, one anchor piece of content created and social media used to jump-start generating traffic and leads. As with executing any plan there is a ramp up period. The following table is a monthly overview of the content marketing tactics and execution timeline.
Curation & Content Marketing Timeline
|Tactics Employed||June 2012||July 2012||August 2012||September 2012|
|Curated to Website Blog, With Commentary||3 time per week||3 time per week||2 time per week||2 time per week|
|Curated to Twitter||—||10 to 15 per weekday||10 to 15 per weekday||10 to 15 per weekday|
|Curated to LinkedIn||—||—||1-2 per day||1-2 per day|
|Curated to Topic Site||—||—||2 posts per weekday||2 posts per weekday|
|Original Blog Post to Website||1 per week||1 per week||1 per week||1 per week|
|eBook Anchor Content with Registration Form||—||—||—||1|
|eBook Promotions on LinkedIn though Groups||—||—||—||2 per week, in 20 Groups|
|Blog Promotions on LinkedIn though Groups||—||—||1 per week, in 20 Groups||1 per week, in 20 Groups|
|Tweets Promoting Blogs & eBook||—||5 time per day||10 time per day||10 time per day|
Curated to website blog, with extensive expert comments and commentary. Commentary is at least 25% of post.
- The reason for the drop off the last two months was due to more focus on the eBook creation and execution and the addition of the topic portal to drive curation traffic.
- Curated to topic site in August & September only.
- Topic site is “sponsored” by primary company and it has a side bar box with link to company website.
- One significant blog per week on average on primary website.
- One eBook launched in September. eBook has one landing page with lead capture form.
Web Traffic Results
The above strategy and execution generated the weekly web traffic that you can see in the graph below. The web traffic growth was still accelerating into October 2012.
Here are the traffic sources break down in month 4 (September 2012):
Social media is the main traffic drivers 50% – all channels, primarily LinkedIn (26%) and then Twitter (22%)
- Virtually all the promotion efforts went into promoting content on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Organic search is driving 10% of traffic and growing respectably
- After one month the topic site was generating 9% of the site’s traffic – all very targeted
- Another 20% of traffic is from other referrals
- The remain 11% is from direct traffic
Note that returning visitor traffic is approximately one-third (33%) of web traffic. If visitor growth was not so high, I believe this number would be higher.
Social Media Traffic Generation
Little additional specific effort went in to growing either Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ followers and none on Facebook. The company identified three major social media networks that contain their target audience – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. They start their focus on Twitter and then after 2 month add LinkedIn – with great success. Just Twitter and LinkedIn are responsible for driving almost 50% of website traffic at month 4 – September 2012. Near-term plans do include adding Facebook. Google+ and Facebook combined contribute less than 2% of the site’s traffic.
Only accounts that meet the customer persona and influencers profiles are followed. Spammers were consistently blocked and only the target audience are followed back. Twitter followers grew at a consistent linear rate during most of the 4 month period. A tipping point seemed to be reached on Twitter in last month — the caliber of followers and tweeting of blog post has grown significantly. The company’s social reach has expanded greatly in the last month after a sustained effort of both content curation sharing and content marketing tactics. This I attribute to the tipping point phenomena where there is enough content, it is added consistently, the quality is high enough, the followers added are starting to include significant influencers so that the traffic growth is accelerating. At the end of month 4, Twitter direct traffic was driving almost 22% of web traffic.
This professional social media was brought into the mix after 2 months and the growing success with Twitter. At the end of month 4, LinkedIn is driving over 26% of web traffic. This is incredible growth in LinkedIn traffic after only two months of sustained effort. This is largely attributable to LinkedIn groups where targeted blog post could be shared and the eBook could be effectively marketed.
Lead generation is of course where content marketing and the rubber meets the road. Their website started to capture leads with forms for the eBook, newsletter and other contact forms in September. Here are summarized results :
Contact conversion rate of 12% — more than 1-in-10 unique visitors completed a contact form in September
- 10.5% for the eBook alone
- These are the conversion rates for all website traffic, not just the landing pages. For every 100 visitors 10 filled out one form or another.
Qualified leads are approximately 50% or more of the captured contacts.
- Judged by meeting the customer persona, company profile and lead scoring efforts
Sales ready leads (prospect) after one month of capture data is approximately 20% of contact captures.
- Determined by prospects making direct contact with the company, lead scoring of site visits, email opens, click-through of nurture content
It is still too early to give a final analysis on revenue metrics. The time and effort from contact form to completing the sales cycle is still TBD. However, early contacts with sales are encouraging.
Obviously with only a few months of traffic and one month of active contact capture there is a lot of room for optimization and tuning.
The conversion rates per traffic source very closely matches the website traffic sources. This is an indicator that the traffic from each source is equally targeted and qualified.
Tipping Points in Traffic Generation
Hubspot analysis shows that at about the 52 blog post point blog search traffic starts to pick up. Correlating the trend line in the graph above and the number of blog posts this company’s experience is another correlated case to the Hubspot analysis. Understand, it is not just having the content, it is also promoting the content – both are keys to effective B2B content marketing.
Ways Content Curation Were Used
As a reminder, for a detailed explanation of the curation strategies used by this company please read our new eBook, “Curation For B2B Content Marketing.” The company did use the B2B ContentEngine to find, organize, share content via social networks and publish to their blog and topic website.
- Content curation certainly played a key role in generating traffic. At the original blog production rate it would have taken a full year of consistent blogging to hit the Hubspot tipping point. With curation this compnay was able to hit this point in under 3 months!
- With website analytics it is easy to see that the original content generated the most visits from social media sharing and search. It was also shared the most by website visitors – and of course it was promoted more by the company. Curated content is on average 1/3 less than original content. However, there is twice as much of curated content thus the number of social media shares of curated content on the primary website is a respectable 40% of overall sharing.
- Social media is used extensively to generate traffic. Curating targeted content directly to social media both drives traffic and raises your brand awareness and thought leadership.
- Using curation allows you to update your site more often, thus search engines will come back and index more often. Freshness is a SEO consideration now.
- The topic site, even only 2 months old, drives significant targeted traffic which is growing.
- Aggregated content in “best of … the industry news” newsletters nurture contacts along the sales funnel. Generating a weekly or monthly “best of … your industry” newsletters with expert commentary and is a great way to keep contacts engaged as part of your nurture paths.
- Customers also get the “best of … your industry” newsletters – with a 30% open rate.
Other Benefits and ROI
Probably one of the most important growth trends is the growth of organic search traffic.
- This is long-tail investments that will payoff repeated overtime – like buying and annuity or bond; it will just keep paying and paying, not just when you keep investing in the annuity.
- This is true for both the company’s primary website and its topic website.
The curated topic website traffic growth will probably grow to contribute more and more of the targeted traffic.
- A benefit of the topic site is that users clicking through to the primary website already highly filtered and more qualified than other sources of traffic.
- Curation increases the long-tail keyword content much faster than could ever be done with original content production.
- Search engines are increasingly using the freshness of content in their results.
- Social media followers are also great for your brand, the continued growth of these highly targeted followers is another investment that will both build your brand and keep on giving in terms of website traffic.